There Will Be Transfused Blood

Not long after I returned home from my oncologist’s office yesterday afternoon, where I had blood drawn and was infused with magnesium—the time was sometime between 4 and 5—I got a call from a nurse. She said the doctor’s APRN wants me at CHI hospital at 8:30 this morning for a blood transfusion. My hemoglobin levels, which have been quite low for some time, have crossed into critical territory, the nurse said. Apparently, the injections I’ve been getting have not done the trick; a blood transfusion is needed to treat the worsening condition. So, this morning, I will be tethered to a bag of blood. From what I understand, the transfusion should take between one and four hours; I’m hoping it will be closer to one hour. And I read that I should plan to return home and “rest” for between 24 and 48 hours after the transfusion. My patience is wearing thinner than I expected. I am not unhappy with anyone, of course, except my own body. It’s all part of the process, so I cannot attach blame to anyone, not even myself. My assumption, of course, is that the anemia is “treatable” or “curable” for the long term—another assumption is that the chemotherapy drugs are responsible for the ongoing decline in my hemoglobin levels. Those assumptions will be tested when next I am able to spend a few minutes with either my oncologist or her APRN. And, from there, my own plan of attack will be launched.


Night before last may have been an aberration; I went to bed early again last night and woke a while ago feeling exhausted. Yesterday morning, just after I posted to my blog, my welcome level of energy dropped to the center of the earth. The news about needing a transfusion prompted me to investigate the many symptoms of low hemoglobin levels. Among them is fatigue, exhaustion, shortness of breath—many of the same symptoms I have had for quite some time and the responsibility for which I had believed were side-effects of pneumonia and/or COPD. Those symptoms may well have arisen from those lung-related matters, but they also may have emerged from a low red blood cell count/low hemoglobin. Or, perhaps, dozens of other causes. Best to let the medical professionals make the call, rather than rely on Google for answers, I suppose.


There it is again. A raft of thoughts chained to health-related issues. I am getting so damn tired of EVERYTHING being tied to my illnesses. Unfortunately, though, those linkages are going to be with me for a while. So, I might as well get used to the idea. But the idea is deeply, annoyingly, thoroughly irritating. A snap of my fingers, leading to perfect health, would be a welcome respite from overexposure to the healthcare system.


A break with the  past, the future, and the present might be all we need to change the direction of humanity. If we could scuttle all evidence of life and death, there would be no need to attempt understanding, because understanding can have no value in the absence of those two terminal conclusions. Nuclear fission and nuclear fusion have enormous potential, if only for a miniscule fraction of a second. Humankind cannot decimate the entire universe, but the potential to erase what we have long believed is the center of “everything” is well within our reach. The pain associated with that erasure would be so brief as to be, essentially, nonexistent. The arguments against eliminating “everything” have no basis in ethics; ethics emerged from fear, which will dissolve into a submicroscopic mist when the time comes. These are not difficult ideas to embrace, when the scope of their existence is measured in particles no wider than one-hundredth of a billionth of a proton.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to There Will Be Transfused Blood

  1. Judy and Bev, thanks for the encouragement. I imagine all I can do is to go on the offensive.

  2. Judy Johnson says:

    John, I wish you all the best as you attack these troublesome obstacles that have been unexpectedly inserting themselves into your life. I believe you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. My hope, as you dispatch each of them, they will be unable to return, and you will continue to feel increasingly better! Go slay those interlopers today. Hugs, Judy

  3. bevwigney says:

    Sorry you’re having a rough go of it with the chemo. Low hemoglobin is almost always a problem when doing chemo. You may find that, if you can follow the recommendation to drink Boost, it will help some. As I recall, it has a lot of iron, which is needed when your hemoglobin is poor. Anyhow, the main thing is to rest and let your body rebuild. You’ll probably feel quite a bit better after the transfusion. As for feelings of about the state of things with your body, we always found (both Don and my mom) that one of the best things was to go out for drives in the countryside – stop and get something good to eat while we were out — on days when feeling good. Nothing too strenuous — just enjoying being out in the sunshine and seeing things other than the inside of the house for a few hours. And, if you get sleepy, just put the seat back and rest your eyes or have a snooze for part of the trip.

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